Tips on How to Find A Good Divorce Lawyer
The majority of couples facing divorce are fearful and unprepared for the process that lies ahead. This includes the important task of finding a good divorce lawyer: How do you ascertain who’s qualified, let alone competent. Where should you even begin to look?
What follows are tips on where and what to look for, so you can conduct your search more efficiently and confidently.
1) First things first: Don’t panic — do some research instead. The first thing you need to do is devote a couple of hours to educating yourself and learning as much as possible about the process of divorce. You’re on a big learning curve, and arming yourself with knowledge will do wonders to help calm your fears and increase your confidence. One of the things you’ll learn is that before you attend a consultation, you should put your financial paperwork in order, so that when you do finally meet, your time together is effectively used. So take a deep breath and put your mind to doing some research; panic should NOT dictate your choices.
2) Ask for recommendations. Provided you’re comfortable in asking, a great starting point for referrals can be friends, family, and even co-workers. Even if they haven’t gone through a divorce firsthand, they may know someone who has and will happily offer up a name or firm.
3) Research lawyers in your area who specialize in divorce. Ideally, you want to work with a lawyer that specializes in family law and divorce because he or she will bring greater depth of experience to the table than a general practice lawyer. A good lawyer will gladly substantiate their claims to be a specialist.
4) Contact your provincial Law Society. Each province has its own Law Society (IE: Law Society of Alberta), and each has an information line that you can call for referrals. Sometimes referral numbers are posted on their websites or in an online guide.
5) Consider your specific needs. Consider what your main areas of concern are: Do they involve child custody and support issues, or are they financial or related to property? Do you anticipate an amicable divorce, resolvable through mediation, or are matters contentious and a courtroom battle probable? By closely evaluating your needs at this stage, you will be better armed to find a suitably qualified and experienced lawyer.
5) Read online reviews. Take the time to visit independent websites, such as Lawyer Ratings Canada, and read reviews posted by real clients. This can help prevent unnecessary headaches down the line, and save you time by highlighting promising candidates.
6) Schedule a consultation. Even if your divorce looks to be straightforward, it’s always best to consult with a lawyer just in case issues arise around children, support, property etc. A consultation enables you to ask questions, assess the lawyer’s qualifications and competency, and decide whether or not the two of you are a good fit. Trust your intuition: Are you comfortable in this lawyer’s company? Does he or she have good interpersonal skills? You need someone with whom you can communicate and reach agreements with in future. It helps to work with someone you like.
Be aware that many lawyers offer a half hour free consultation to new clients. Check out Divorce-Canada.ca for a comprehensive directory of lawyers by province and city who do so.
7) Ask about the lawyer’s success record – both in and out of court. A good lawyer has the flexibility to succeed either in the courtroom or through mediation. Don’t be afraid to ask numbers under both case scenarios. Court documents are publicly available so you can further research a lawyer’s claims if you wish.
8) Ask for a fee schedule up front. Lawyer fees can range from $100 per hour to upwards of $500. Retainer fees can also range from $1000 to $5000. You’ll want to make sure your lawyer is one you can afford, so call his/her office and find out about fees before bothering with a consult.
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